Catfishing and Conspiracy in Groves

Cross Coburn

Cross Coburn was 19 years old and only four months into his political career when the envelope that threatened to destroy it arrived at Groves City Hall. A drama major at Lamar State-Port Arthur, Coburn had wanted to go into politics since he was a child. Sparked by the turbulent 2016 presidential election, in which he supported Bernie Sanders, Coburn filed for the city council election in his Ward 1, submitting his candidacy on August 18, just three days before the deadline expired.

Coburn is young, idealistic, progressive, and openly gay; Groves, a refinery town in the shadow of Beaumont and Port Arthur, skews older (the average age is 39, about four years older than the statewide average) and conservative (Donald Trump carried 75 percent of the vote here in 2016). Coburn didn’t know how the election would turn out, but he figured he’d get some good campaign experience either way. But then on August 21, the Ward 1 incumbent, Jim Rasa, unexpectedly announced he was stepping down, leaving the door wide open for Coburn, who, as it turned out, was the only person to file for Rasa’s seat. “I felt I had my shot and it’s time for a fresh face, new ideas and fresh perspective,” Rasa told the Port Arthur News. “I wish [Coburn] good fortune and great success.”

Never before in Groves had a 19-year-old progressive-minded gay man held a public position of power. Few of the city’s leaders knew what to think of Coburn. The same conservative, cliquey old guard had held a tight grip on the city’s political and social scene for nearly two decades. It had been ten years since Mayor Brad P. Bailey or any of the sitting council members had even drawn an election opponent. City manager D.E. Sosa told me he can remember only two or three city elections held in Groves since he entered office fifteen years ago. “There’s a dynastic approach to leadership in Groves,” one former resident told me. “It’s always been the same group of people.”

Residents apparently have not minded—most have been unconcerned with local politics, and city council meetings were usually held before empty chambers. Bailey, councilman Sidney Badon, and councilman Kyle Hollier would often vote as a bloc, with councilwoman Karen Theis (a close family friend of Coburn’s) occasionally deviating, which has put her at odds with a few of them, Hollier especially. In 2013, Hollier publicly accused Theis of getting preferential treatment from the city after she had fallen behind on her business’s water bill, and she is sure Hollier started a salacious rumor that spread around town this past spring, alleging that Theis, a 54-year-old single woman with short gray hair, is secretly a lesbian (she is not). Theis and Hollier no longer speak to each other. “He’s been very difficult to deal with,” Theis told me. “I don’t like him at all.”

Relations between Coburn and his elder council colleagues were cold, if uneventful, for his first few months in office. Then on February 27, Coburn received a text message from city manager D.E. Sosa. “The mayor asked that I contact you about meeting with him tomorrow at the police station,” Sosa wrote. Coburn found Sosa’s text unnerving, even more so because Sosa couldn’t tell him what the meeting was about. “All I know is that it is a personal matter,” Sosa texted Coburn. The next day, Coburn arrived at the police station with his attorney, Jill Swearingen Pierce, a friend of the family who had known Coburn since he was in middle school. They were led to one of the station’s interview rooms. Mayor Bailey sat at a table with a large manila envelope placed before him.

“This was sent to us anonymously,” Bailey said, according to Coburn. He slid the envelope over to Swearingen Pierce, and she took out the nine pages of paper that were inside. On the first page was a typed note that read, “Is this in any way proper behavior of a councilman to represent himself online or a ‘dating’ app? I felt the City Council should be made aware of the situation.” Along with the note were full-page printouts of cell phone screen captures showing Coburn’s profile on Grindr, a gay dating app. The screen captures showed a Grindr text conversation between Coburn and an unknown user, and the text conversation included several nude selfies that Coburn had sent.

On the first page was a typed note that read, “Is this in any way proper behavior of a councilman to represent himself online or a ‘dating’ app? I felt the City Council should be made aware of the situation.”

Anyone can make a profile on Grindr, a cell phone app aimed at adult gay men seeking relationships with other gay men, including casual sex and sexting, and users often know few details about the person on the other end of their conversations—only a first name, age, proximity, and a few photos that often do not include a face or any identifying features. (Coburn’s profile had shown his face and his first name.) Grindr’s safety guidelines discourage using identifying information: not everyone who uses the app is openly gay, and there are obvious risks of being outed, especially in more conservative communities like Groves. Though Grindr is considered by those in the LGBT community to be a safe way for gay and trans men to connect with each other, the risks beyond outing include being “catfished”—ensnared by a user who has created a fake or misleading profile, and then extorted or blackmailed over the compromising information that was shared.

Coburn is confident that he was catfished. He didn’t remember to whom he had sent those photos, and the printouts in the envelope were carefully edited so as not to reveal anything about the Grindr profile on the other end of the conversation. Coburn had deleted the app from his phone, which wiped his profile’s history and made it impossible to track down the remaining details of this interaction. While it was clear that the photos had been exchanged with consent and Coburn hadn’t done anything illegal, he felt like Mayor Bailey was interrogating him. Bailey told Coburn he intended to call the Texas Rangers or the FBI to investigate, but that he would not do so if Coburn simply resigned.

Swearingen Pierce, meanwhile, was unfazed. She quickly flipped through the pages of photos. Yeah, whatever, that’s a penis, she thought. Big deal. She told Mayor Bailey they would take some time to think things over. Coburn weighed whether to resign. He knew that if he stayed on the council, it would be difficult to work with Bailey and the others after they had seen these photos, and he apparently faced the possibility of an invasive city investigation into … well, what exactly, he was still unsure. He felt like he was being strong-armed into potentially giving up his council seat.

Jill Swearingen Pierce and Cross Coburn in Pierce’s office at Bradley & Steele on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

When Bailey called Coburn a few days later and told him he needed an answer or the city would open an investigation, Coburn again wondered what Bailey was planning to investigate—the person who apparently catfished him, or his private exchange of naked photos on a gay dating app? He asked Bailey what he was really being asked to decide on. “Now I’m getting pissed,” Bailey said, according to Coburn. He told Coburn that he needed to act like an adult and take responsibility for his actions, and that he could not run away from his past. “I just told him, ‘All right, well, you have a great day, Mayor. I’m not going to resign,’” Coburn told me later. “And that was the end of diplomatic relations.”

Mayor Bailey considered his options. City manager D.E. Sosa asked the city attorney what they could do to remove Coburn from the city council. On Monday, March 5, the city attorney emailed Sosa, informing him that they could not get rid of Coburn on their own—they would need a citizen-driven petition for a recall election. It appeared as though Bailey’s hands were tied; the public did not know about the nude photos, so they had no reason to circulate a petition against Coburn.

Then, later that week, an envelope containing Coburn’s nude photos was mailed to the Port Arthur News and the newsroom at KFDM, the local CBS affiliate, accompanied by the same typed note that was sent to the city. They ran stories about Coburn’s nude photos the following Tuesday.

Thus began the unraveling of Groves. Already wracked with post–Hurricane Harvey tensions—the city was hit with 60.54 inches of rain, the second highest amount in Texas—the Coburn controversy has clawed at the finely woven threads that keep a small community like this together. Coburn told the media that he believed himself to be the victim of a city government conspiracy to kick him out of office because he’s young and gay. Arguments broke out in the comment sections of the city’s several active neighborhood Facebook groups. Some defended Coburn and agreed that he had done nothing wrong but was instead a victim of bigotry. Others claimed his sexual preference was irrelevant, but said what he did was “immoral” and that as a councilman he is held to a higher standard than the average citizen. But unlike other politicians’ sexting scandals, such as that of former New York congressman Anthony Weiner or Texas congressman Joe Barton, which had involved adulterous, predatory, or even criminal acts, Coburn had legally exchanged his photos with a consenting adult under a reasonable expectation of privacy. There was confusion among commenters over what Grindr is, and some mistakenly believed Coburn had posted the photos in a public forum. Among Coburn’s supporters there was intense anger at the older guard; his detractors spread rumors about Coburn, alluding to a supposed sordid past and claiming that he and councilwoman Theis had been plotting to take over the city.

An administrator of the “Groves Texas Neighbors Helping Neighbors” Facebook group, which has nearly 2,800 members, had to ban all posts about Coburn because the conversations too frequently devolved into pools of vitriol. One Facebook commenter wrote that Coburn was “a self-entitled little faggot prick.” Swearingen Pierce had to send another commenter a cease-and-desist letter after he repeatedly posted unsubstantiated rumors about Coburn.

“It’s a very gossipy little town,” Kolby Duhon, a 27-year-old Groves native who moved to Austin six years ago, told me. “But I don’t ever recall it being divisive like this.” The weeks and months in Groves since Coburn’s photos were leaked have produced a nonstop airing of everybody’s dirty laundry. Many people who spoke to me requested anonymity out of fear that they would face retribution in town for speaking freely about what was happening. At the heart of all of this, of course, is Coburn, who refuses to back down amid what he feels is nothing more than an old-school public shaming driven by implicit homophobia.

The people of Groves packed into City Hall’s small council chambers for the next scheduled meeting after the nude photos were leaked to the media. Coburn sat stoically two seats to Mayor Bailey’s right as Bailey told the room that the city concluded Coburn had done nothing illegal, and that he could not do anything about Coburn himself. It was up to them, Bailey said, to put together a petition. Groves resident William Lane Howlett quickly took on that task, seeking a November election to recall Coburn. By May, it had garnered more than 1,000 signatures, including those of Mayor Bailey and Councilman Sidney Badon—each of whose wives circulated several of the petition’s signature pages—and Councilman Hollier, who circulated some pages himself.

Groves city council meeting

The city council meeting at Groves City Hall on Monday, October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

The first time somebody called Coburn a faggot, he was in fifth grade. Every day, he’d walk home from Groves Elementary and pass the Stop-N-Drive corner store on 39th Street, a popular spot where kids often rode their bikes to hang out after school. Every day, the same boy would yell at him as he walked by. Coburn brushed it off at first. He was more effeminate than most boys his age, but he had not yet come to terms with his sexuality—he was too young, and he didn’t really understand why so many of his classmates thought he was gay. He was already confused and angry—earlier that year, Coburn’s father had killed himself after struggling with drug addiction. When Coburn’s bully found out about his father’s death, his taunts reached new levels of cruelty.

During the last week of school, Coburn again passed the corner store on his walk home, and again the other boy was there to call him a faggot. This time, Coburn could no longer keep his emotions in check. He knocked the boy to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him.

When middle school started next fall, the boy no longer called Coburn a faggot. But at that point, other kids started asking him questions—Are you gay? Do you like guys?—and pestering him about gay sex. Coburn didn’t make many friends and retreated into himself. He’d often come home from school, sit on his bed, and just stare at the wall to decompress. In eighth grade he started dating a girl, but soon realized it didn’t feel natural. He wrote the girl a note explaining why he wanted to break up with her, and she in turn outed him to the rest of the school. So Coburn wrote a long post on Facebook, officially coming out as bisexual—he did not necessarily think that he liked girls, but he figured it would be more socially palatable to be bisexual than to just come out as gay.

During the last week of fifth grade, Coburn again passed the corner store on his walk home, and again the other boy was there to call him a faggot.

As Coburn continued to grapple with his sexual identity and with the loss of his father, the bullying continued. Coburn turned to video games and online chatting for social interaction. “I endured years of just people questioning, [telling me] what they thought I should feel,” Coburn told me later. “When you have no other outlet, you burst at the seams sometimes.” In a Facebook chat with a few other kids from school, Coburn and his classmates joked about taking over the school and shooting the kids they didn’t like. “I was trying to make myself feel like I was actually in control of my life,” Coburn told me. “Subconsciously I knew that I wasn’t.”

His Facebook comments got back to school officials, and one day he was pulled out of gym class and told to go to the principal’s office, where two police officers were waiting for him. After hours of questioning, Coburn tearfully admitted to writing the Facebook messages. He was escorted out of the school in handcuffs, still wearing his gym clothes. “It was my lowest point,” Coburn told me.

A police car took him to Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center, nestled between the county jail and a state prison. The police searched his home but found no weapons or plans for violence, according to Swearingen Pierce, who had been hired by Coburn’s family to represent him. But this was post–Sandy Hook—any perceived threat was taken seriously. Coburn was charged with a Class B misdemeanor and spent a month in juvenile detention.

For the first two weeks, he cried himself to sleep in his concrete cell. Out of boredom, he’d tear pieces of toilet paper and fashion them into small dolls. He checked out library books about drug addiction, hoping to find out more about what his dad had gone through. He kept to himself, though the other kids in juvie eventually assigned him a nickname: “Feminine.”

By the time Coburn had finished a required juvenile boot camp, summer had ended and he was about to start high school. Students from another middle school filtered into his class, and it was a chance for Coburn to start fresh. The bullying dissipated and he found a small group of friends he could confide in. Still, he was the only openly gay kid in his class. “All the girls would say that I was their gay best friend, which is just a stereotype,” he told me. “Then you have the jocks that couldn’t even look at you, which I always though was funny, because I dressed very nice.” There was no organized support system—Coburn said some upperclassmen had tried to start an LGBT club, but their efforts were shot down by school administrators.

Coburn got decent grades, became interested in history and politics, and stayed out of trouble. When he graduated and started college, he thought his middle school juvie stint was behind him. But it has resurfaced since his Grindr photos were leaked. Rumors spread that Coburn had been compiling a “hit list.” One Facebook commenter wrote that Coburn had “called in bomb threats.”

Oil refineries in Groves form a skyline of sorts for the city, on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

First Baptist Church in Groves

The front exterior of First Baptist Church in Groves on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Left:

Oil refineries in Groves form a skyline of sorts for the city, on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Right:

The front exterior of First Baptist Church in Groves on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Like many refinery towns on the Gulf, Groves is devoutly religious. There are about fifteen churches in Groves, two and a half per square mile. Most of them are Baptist and lean fundamentalist. God is very much ingrained in society here—each city council meeting begins with a prayer—and Pastor Joe Worley’s First Baptist Church is perhaps the most influential of the city’s churches.

Swearingen Pierce, 51, attended First Baptist while growing up in Groves. When she was growing up, she says, it was impossible to be openly gay in Groves. Sexuality was not a permitted topic of discussion, and the oppressiveness could have devastating implications. “My sister killed herself when she was fifteen years old,” Swearingen Pierce said. “And I’m pretty sure it’s because she was gay and lived in Groves.”

As LGBT rights slowly rose to the forefront of the national consciousness, the issue became  particularly divisive in Groves. In 2006, as President George W. Bush pushed Congress to pass the ill-fated “Federal Marriage Amendment,” which would have officially defined marriage in the United States as a union between a man and a woman, a middle-aged elementary school principal in the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District was arrested in a sting operation at a park in Beaumont for allegedly soliciting sex in a men’s restroom. The man was also a deacon at First Baptist, and after his arrest and outing he was essentially banned from the church, a 27-year-old gay Groves man and former First Baptist member told me.

“He went down in flames,” he said. “He was ostracized by the community. That memory still sticks with me, and I find myself talking about it with people several times a year, just how salacious all the details were. It reminds me of what’s going on now.”

Before the recall petition picked up steam, Coburn heard that a group of local religious leaders had met to discuss the controversy over his nude photos. Worley reached out to Coburn, and they met in Worley’s office at First Baptist in March. Worley told Coburn that he had been in contact with Mayor Bailey and the author of the petition, William Lane Howlett, and Worley assured Coburn that if he made a public apology and promised to resign at the end of the year, then the petition would go away and the recall election would not happen.

Coburn again felt he was being pressured to step down. As he considered the possibility of resigning and putting an end to what was becoming an increasingly bitter battle, he wondered why a local pastor was inserting himself into what seemed to be first and foremost a matter of city politics.

“I hate to say this, but I think Worley got involved because they don’t like homosexuals,” another former church member told me. “I don’t know anybody gay that goes there. They don’t agree with that lifestyle. They probably think getting him off the council will save our community or something. They only see their way. They know the power they have over the community. If people see Worley’s name, they will side with him and follow his lead.”

On May 3, Worley texted Coburn, asking him if he’d had the chance to think about what they discussed during their meeting. Worley promised again that with a few quick phone calls to the mayor and Howlett, the petition would be dropped. “An apology and [a] … resignation date of the end of 2018 is all that is needed,” Worley wrote. “I promise my support for you throughout.” Coburn said he needed more time to pray about his decision, and the two spoke on the phone a few days later. The conversation did not last long. “I’m sorry I ended the call so abruptly,” Coburn wrote Worley in a text. “This is very upsetting to me.” He had decided again not to resign.

Around late August, a yellow envelope arrived for Coburn in the mail. “PRAYERGRAM,” it said on the front, and it was addressed from First Baptist.

Dear Cross-

As a group of women that pray we have you on our hearts and minds. We are so concerned about our city and want it to be a place where all people can be happy. We know Jesus is the answer for our city and for you. 

Prayer Warriors

We are all mothers and grandmothers and we love to see young people follow Jesus.

In a phone interview, Worley told me he became involved in Coburn’s recall out of concern for Coburn, who he said was made susceptible to blackmail because of the leaked nude photos. “My concern was that people would take advantage of him,” he said. “We were all very concerned about how this would affect his life going forward, and also how this impacts the community.” When I asked him about Coburn’s allegations that the leaking of the nude photos and the ensuing effort to recall him was driven by homophobia, Worley said, “That’s a non-issue. I’ve never discussed that with Cross, that’s not what this issue is about. My view on homosexuality, I’m clear with our church and with what the Bible teaches about it, but I never discussed it with Cross.”

He did not want to talk to me about his church’s views on LGBT people. “I’m just not going to comment,” he said. “There’s gonna be an effort to draw us into a conversation about that when that is not what this is about for me. If you want to have that discussion at another time, we could talk about that. I’m not embarrassed by it. But it’s not the reason for me to be involved and for us to take a stand as a community.”

people waiting at the Groves city council meeting

Jill Swearingen Pierce (far right) and other citizens attend Monday's city council meeting on October 29, 2018. According to Swearingen Pierce, meeting attendance has been higher since the controversy.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

It’s an unfortunate reality of living in a small community that everybody knows your past. The petition garnered more and more signatures, until they eventually surpassed a thousand. Swearingen Pierce filed an open records request and obtained a copy of the petition so she and Coburn could review it before the council voted to have it certified. Coburn recognized a lot of the names on the signature pages—former classmates and a former teacher, even some men that Coburn knew were gay. He and Swearingen Pierce noticed many signatures from members of First Baptist Church, too, though Worley’s was absent—it appeared he had kept his promise to Coburn that he would not sign the petition. He saw the signatures of Mayor Bailey, Councilmen Badon and Hollier, and saw the pages that had been circulated by Bailey’s wife and by Hollier himself.

There were some oddities throughout the petition. Some of those who signed had apparently written down an incorrect date of birth—Swearingen Pierce flagged one page in particular. After the city clerk had addressed a number of the errors, one birthdate was amended, rather impossibly, to January 1, 1900.

There were also some pages with similar-looking signatures. Swearingen Pierce had a handwriting expert take a preliminary look at the petition. One of the most problematic-looking pages was one that had been circulated by Mayor Bailey’s wife, Darla. In particular, the signatures of Jason and Jennifer Vandehoef looked nearly identical. It turns out that neither Vandehoef had ever even seen the petition. They signed affidavits for Swearingen Pierce stating that their signatures had been forged, and Jason later made a report with the Groves Police.

In particular, the signatures of Jason and Jennifer Vandehoef looked nearly identical. It turns out that neither Vandehoef had ever even seen the petition.

A detective told Jason that it was unlikely the culprit would be brought to justice—there just wasn’t enough evidence to know who had been behind the forgeries. The detective also told Vandehoef that Darla Bailey had been questioned, and that she said people had been coming in and out of the Baileys’ house to sign the petition, and that it was possible someone had pretended to be somebody else, though she didn’t know who might have done it.

Vandehoef was upset. He told me that he and his wife are progressive-minded people, and they never would have supported the petition. “I’m pretty pissed that someone would falsify our name on an election document,” he said. “It’s serious. I believe it was because they were running out of time and didn’t have enough signatures, so they just went ahead and made some up.”

The city clerk validated the petition on May 23. Even after some signatures were disqualified, 936 remained, which met the required minimum of 893 (10 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last election). The petition’s certification was placed on the agenda for the city council meeting on June 25.

The people of Groves flocked to City Hall for the meeting. The crowd was too large for the chambers and spilled into the hallway, and local news cameras were trained on Coburn, Bailey, Badon, Theis, and Hollier. The petition was quickly certified, meaning Coburn would officially face a recall election in November.

“Good,” said an older man standing in the back of the chambers after the certification was announced, according to two people who were at that meeting. “Get that faggot out of here.”

Groves councilman Kyle Hollier

Groves city councilman Kyle Hollier at the city council meeting on Monday, October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Groves mayor Brad P. Bailey

Groves mayor Brad P. Bailey at the city council meeting on Monday, October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Left:

Groves city councilman Kyle Hollier at the city council meeting on Monday, October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Right:

Groves mayor Brad P. Bailey at the city council meeting on Monday, October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

After the meeting, Coburn held a press conference outside City Hall. “Make no mistake … this petition has been the personal vendetta of a select few in government,” he told reporters. “I was targeted.” He called out Mayor Bailey, Councilman Badon, Pastor Worley, and Councilman Hollier, accusing them of pushing the recall petition and pressuring him to resign. Swearingen Pierce said the “undeniable” conclusion was that the photos were leaked from within the city government. She had previously gone before the council to make that case, paying special attention to the timeline of events—the photos were leaked to the media only after Coburn’s refusal to resign and after the council’s realization that they could not remove him on their own—and to the envelopes sent to the media, which bore different labels and postage marks than the one received by the city.

Most people in Coburn’s camp seem to believe that Hollier is at the center of this alleged conspiracy to oust Coburn. In an interview with a local reporter, Hollier denied any involvement, instead insinuating that Coburn may have leaked the photos to “draw attention” to himself, and challenging his critics to show some hard evidence or “shut up.”

Swearingen Pierce has admitted that the evidence she presented to the city council is circumstantial. But another woman in town, Suzanne Williamson, had a series of interactions with Hollier that points to something more.

On February 7, two weeks before the envelope of pictures was mailed to City Hall, Hollier sent a Facebook message to Williamson, telling her to call him. Williamson, a Groves resident, had gone to her first city council meeting a few days earlier, to discuss the city’s drainage issues. She had been increasingly involved in local politics since Hurricane Harvey, and regularly posted videos on Facebook of minor flooding throughout the city during hard rains, which had earned her a large local following.

Their phone call at 4 p.m. that day lasted for 65 minutes, according to Williamson’s phone records. She told me Hollier talked to her about the city council, in particular Cross Coburn. “He said that Coburn hadn’t been in that position for six months yet, and how after a six-month period of time, according to our city charter, a person could be recalled if a petition of 10 percent of the registered voters was obtained,” Williamson told me. “So I was thinking to myself, well, who cares? Why is he telling me this?”

Williamson said Hollier claimed that Coburn was only on the council because of Theis, and that they were plotting to take control of the council. He told her that because she lived in the same ward as Coburn, she could potentially take his seat if there were to be a recall election. “I thought, well, that’s odd,” Williamson told me. “You’ve seen me one time at a city council meeting. You don’t know anything about me. I could be the worst. I could have terrible ethics, be dishonest. You don’t know anything about me. Why would you want to appoint me to the city council when you don’t even know if I’m a good person for the job?”

Williamson said she didn’t really know how to respond. Then, on February 26, the day before Sosa texted Coburn that Bailey wanted to meet him at the police station, Hollier called her again at 8:18 a.m. They talked for 46 minutes. “He begins to tell me that he has some disturbing news, that the city has received nude photos of Coburn that were anonymously sent, that he has seen them,” Williamson told me. “That’s when he started referring to them as, pardon my French, ‘dick pics.’ He goes into detail, telling me what they look like. Then he starts talking about a disgruntled lover of Coburn’s and he starts mentioning a substitute teacher from Coburn’s old high school. It was weird. And he again asks me, if there is a recall would I want to be appointed to Ward 1? He tells me that a petition would have to be circulated, but that I shouldn’t be the one to circulate it, that they’re working on getting other people involved to do that. And he says when this hits the media, it’s going to be bad news for Groves. So I remember thinking to myself, well, when is it going to hit the media?”

“And he asks me, if there is a recall would I want to be appointed to Ward 1? He tells me that a petition would have to be circulated, but that I shouldn't be the one to circulate it, that they're working on getting other people involved to do that.”

Williamson thought it was odd that Hollier was telling her this, and she didn’t tell anyone else about their discussion—she told me she’s not one for gossip.

At 1:54 p.m. on March 5, city manager Sosa received the city attorney’s email explaining that Coburn could only be removed from the council through a recall petition. At 3:30, Hollier again reached out to Williamson on Facebook and asked if she had time for a phone call. They spoke for 37 minutes. Again, Hollier told Williamson that the photos of Coburn were going to be a problem, and that there was going to be a recall petition, and he asked her if she would accept an appointment to replace Coburn if he were recalled.

The photos were sent to the media four days later, and after the story ran and Coburn and Swearingen Pierce began their public fight, Hollier called Williamson one last time. On May 3 they spoke for 85 minutes. “He says to me, ‘I’m begging you to agree to be appointed to Ward 1,’” Williamson told me. “He told me the petition is about to be filed.”

It appears Hollier had badly misread Williamson. She began to post on social media that “a certain councilman” had contacted her before the controversy over the photos became public. “Once Hollier realized I wasn’t on his side, he unfriended me and blocked me on Facebook,” she told me.

There were others I spoke to who found it easy to believe that Hollier was somehow involved. One of them is M.J. Ponsegrau, who writes a popular political gossip blog, Jefferson County Beer Party. Ponsegrau himself is a fairly divisive figure in Groves (one Facebook commenter described him as a “loud, obnoxious, know-it-all buttinksi,” a label that Ponsegrau may feel tempted to wear as a badge of honor), and Hollier has frequently been a target of his scathing blog posts.

Ponsegrau told me he would often talk with Hollier over coffee at a local café. “Hollier loves to call people faggots and lezzies and everything else under the sun,” Ponsegrau told me, adding that after the news ran stories about Coburn’s nude photos, Hollier began referring to Coburn as “Dick Pic.” According to Ponsegrau, Hollier stopped speaking to him after Ponsegrau started writing blog posts about Hollier’s homophobic comments. There was no love lost, and Ponsegrau is not one to mince words. “Kyle Hollier is a blowhard,” Ponsegrau told me. “Kyle Hollier thinks he’s something he’s not. Kyle Hollier is a leftover hippie with long hair who thinks he’s God.”

On another soaked September day in Groves, the City Hall chambers were once again packed for the city council meeting. The rain had stopped and the clouds were backlit by a sun desperate to shine, casting the city in a hazy golden glow. After the meeting ended, Mayor Bailey was surrounded by television cameras as reporters confronted him about the recent accusations that his wife had forged petition signatures. He declined to comment on the allegations. (Bailey also declined to comment on the record at all to Texas Monthly for this story.) Instead, he told reporters that he was glad the recall election was moving forward. “I think you should be held to a higher position up here and his track record speaks for itself,” he said.

Hollier, meanwhile, slinked past reporters and walked out of the chambers and through the glass doors at the back of City Hall. I had been trying to reach him for an interview, but he had not returned any of my messages from the week before. I was able to catch up to him outside. There was a hint of anger in his voice as he told me he had no comment. I wanted to ask him about the allegations that were made against him, and about his conversations with Williamson. When he began to walk away from me, an older man who was with him waved me away and shouted, “Go away, get out of here!”

Lawn signs on 39th Street promoting candidates for the upcoming election.

Lawn signs on 39th Street promoting candidates for the upcoming election.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Local storefronts on 39th Street in Groves on October 29, 2018.

Local storefronts on 39th Street in Groves on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Left:

Lawn signs on 39th Street promoting candidates for the upcoming election.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Right:

Local storefronts on 39th Street in Groves on October 29, 2018.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

Coburn and Swearingen Pierce tried to fight the recall petition after it was certified, taking the case before a district judge, but the judge ruled that he was unable to interfere with what was at that point technically an active election.

The sides have more or less been cemented, and the divisiveness is tangible. One day Coburn’s mother, Angela Contreras, was in a corner store when she overheard several older men talking about Coburn after the petition was certified. “It’s good we got that faggot out of here,” they said, according to Contreras. She told me it’s been hard for her and her son since the photos were leaked. “I probably cry every day over this,” she said. “To be nineteen and have everyone hate you? And some of those people I’ve known all my life. It’s hurt him. He doesn’t know who he can trust anymore.”

Coburn himself told me it has made him more cynical and less naive. He’s lost a significant amount of weight from stress. He told me he wants to move to a bigger city someday, somewhere on the East Coast, where attitudes toward gay people are more friendly. And he hopes to continue his career in politics.

He’d also like to know who catfished him, even though it’s unlikely the person would ever be brought to justice. Grindr’s policy is to delete all user data when a profile is deleted, and a Texas appellate court recently struck down the state’s “revenge porn” law, meaning even if Coburn and Swearingen Pierce did somehow find out who was behind the other Grindr profile, they would have little recourse to pursue criminal action.

One tangible result of the controversy embroiling Groves is the newfound passion locals seem to have now for local politics. Coburn’s recall is far from the only item on the upcoming ballot—for the first time in at least two decades, nearly every city seat is up for election. Bailey, Hollier, and Theis are all being opposed. Bailey has two opponents: Kaelan Ramos, a 21-year-old whose candidacy has been relatively quiet, and Suzanne Williamson, who decided to throw her hat in the ring after learning more about the way the city was being run. Front lawns here, many still burdened by dumpsters filled with furniture and sheetrock damaged during Harvey, are covered in colorful candidate signs. Theis told me that it appears a changing of the guard is imminent, and for her part, she looks forward to working with new perspectives, regardless of whether she ends up keeping her seat. “I hope we have some new faces,” she told me. “It’s hard to buck the system when you’re the only one.”

Councilwoman Karen Theis

Councilwoman Karen Theis as she leaves Monday’s city council meeting.

Photograph by Justin Calhoun

The caustic rhetoric in the controversy surrounding Coburn has infected the other campaigns. The mayoral election, for example, has already been marred by mudslinging and pettiness. While Williamson has focused her platform on drainage issues and financial responsibility, a Bailey supporter recently posted on Facebook a campaign meme listing the differences between the two candidates—the very first item on the list noted Williamson’s support for Coburn, while other bullet points claimed she harasses veterans, accused her of politicizing hurricanes for her own personal gain, and called her a “keyboard warrior.” Mayor Bailey himself filed an official complaint with the Texas Election Commission, alleging that the word “for” in Williamson’s “Suzanne Williamson for Mayor” lawn signs was too small.

Exactly how the voters of Groves will respond in November remains unclear. They will hold in their hands much more than voters typically do in a small-town election. Given the city’s political history, an opportunity for wholesale change such as this may not come around again.

It’s possible that the divisions caused by the controversy around Coburn may be too great to bridge. Just as the people of Groves came together during Hurricane Harvey, there was once the potential that this political storm could have made the community stronger. “I think it’s personally aspirational that a 19-year-old stepped up to lead, and I had hoped we would see Coburn as a model for his generation,” Duhon, the former Groves resident, told me. “That’s the Groves I hoped to see throughout this scenario, and certainly as we’ve seen now that’s just not the case. Instead we’ve decided to attack him and out him publicly and we are seeking to remove him from office. I just hoped that we would be better, and unfortunately, it appears that we’re not.

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Tags: Politics, Society, cross coburn, grindr, groves, recall election

Comments

  • RW

    Shameful, small, little, “christian” people following fools and bigots. A typical Texas story and a very sad one. Im glad I left the State a long time ago.

  • Victor Edwards

    Has anyone read Romans 1, I Corinthians 6, etc, etc? The lifestyle is immoral and according to Romans 1:32, “…worthy of death.” Homosexuality is a deviant BEHAVIOR, not a genetic condition. We are all responsible for our behaviors, be they normal or deviant.

    • Michael Wen Gonzalez (Mikey)

      That same Romans passage includes death for people that boast, covet, debate, whisper, envy, backbite and are disobedient to thier parents. And those are just a few that it includes. I assure you that you will find one or more groups you fall under. How about this one: Matt.7. [1] “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” You bible thumpers pick and choose just the items that fit your bigotted, hateful point of view. Open you mind and perhaps your heart will follow.

      • Walt Longmire

        Ah, tricked you, eh? I have answered this bogus argument so many times that have the answer on a separate not so I can just copy and paste. I call Matt. 7:1 the most familiar – and most misunderstood – verse in the Bible. The very notion that the Bible condemns judgment and discernment across the board is nigh unto stupid, and shows that you are nitpicking the text completely out of context. If you were to read the entire passage you would know that the Bible does NOT do so. But I will take it from the top for you.

        The text is about unjust judgment of one person by another person DOING THE SAME THING. For short we call this hypocrisy. Every Christian I know understands what hypocrisy is. But this passage does not teach an across-the-board prohibition of judgment or discernment between right and wrong. Indeed, quite the opposite. Look down at verse 6, immediately following the quote you quoted from the passage.

        “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

        This is exactly what you and the other complainers are doing here in these comments; you are trampling holy things, and trampling over pearls [spiritual blessings]. But my point is this: one must be ready to judge what is a “dog” or “swine” before they can obey this instruction, don’t you think?

        You people are strange, first hating God and His word, then clumsily using it wrongly to try to retort. It looks a bit pre-adolescent, frankly, and at quite sophomoric. Texas taught me better than that, and I am grateful to her for eternity to come.

        Homosexuality is immoral, vile affection, unnatural, unclean, corrupting the flesh, lust of the flesh, dishonoring of the body, vile passions and offensive to God and mankind, a reproach to nature. Why would any person or town accept this kind of wretched behavior in one of its leaders?

        • Evan Clymer

          God has no place in politics. Would Coburn be receiving this type of treatment if he had sent some nude texts to a female friend he was flirting with? Furthermore — it’s pretty clear he was set up by someone attempting to utilize these pictures against him.

          So, without bringing up God. What is the reason for this recall? Because he’s a young single man? Because that’s essentially all he did. Stomp your feet for conduct unbecoming a “councilman/member(hah)”, but the conduct I’ve seen used against him is the real monster here.

          • Walt Longmire

            In a Christian environment, if a man sent his girlfriend a nude picture, that would pretty much disqualify him from public office for his life, frankly. And rightly so. Those who lead must be held to higher moral standards than the masses, and to declare your homosexuality in a small Texas community and claim special entitlements is just plain silly – and a little bit self-loathing.

          • StudioTodd

            Yeah, but I bet you happily cast your vote for Donald Trump, along with the rest of the evangelical cretins, you hypocrite.

    • Allan Folsom

      He Victor, here is verse 11 of the same Chapter which people much like yourself tend to overlook. Funny how it specifically points out the past tense. Sanctification is a process. I do not know the status of thie young mans heart, I only know that he is to work his own salvation out with God and not you my friend.
      1 cor 6:11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

      • Walt Longmire

        I haven’t overlooked it at all! Indeed, I invoke it constantly when testifying of God’s grace to homosexuals. It is a marvelous promise that if one repents and turns to Christ, God takes away those wretched desires and gives one a new heart and a new mind that repents [turns from, abandons] those putrid behaviors. But moderns like to claim that it is in the nature, and should not be changed at all, but embraced and celebrated. The opposite is true, however.

        This young man shows no evidence [perhaps the writers are simply ignorant?] of any conversion and repentance from his sins. And unless and until he does so, he is – like me formerly – lost forever, hopeless in this world.

        There IS hope; there IS redemption. But it comes after repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. I would encourage him to do so this very day, and pray that God would be pleased to grant him the repentance and faith that he needs for redemption from sin.

        His friends will NEVER tell him this, but will tell him he is just okay, and stand by and watch as he pitches into hell. What friends are those?

        • Evan Clymer

          Essentially “Pray away the gay”… Which, I’m fairly certain, never works. Also — why should he turn to Christ? Because you want him to? Because he’s sinned? That’s your definition of sin, defined by a religious group that burned, murdered, and raped it’s way to dominance. Sure, Christianity (as all religions) have it’s good aspects. This isn’t it.

          Religion has nothing to do any of this, nor should it. If people in Groves don’t like homosexuality, then perhaps it’s up to them to make peace with that bigotry and accept that they cannot change everything or anything. That all said, they’re perfectly free to recall Coburn. Just call it for what it is; homophobia.

          • Walt Longmire

            I do not claim any validity to the “pray away the gay,” as you put it. I am a licensed counselor in my state and do not believe that praying is the “treatment” for homosexuality. I do believe that there are legitimate psychological approaches that could be effective, but the homosexual lobby has made it almost impossible to implement any intervention, good or otherwise.

            What I am talking about is a religious conversion, a new heart and mind by virtue of the work of God in a person’s soul. And yes, it involves repentance and faith in one object, the person Jesus Christ.

            Insofar as why he should turn to Christ is bec

          • StudioTodd

            The fact that you are licensed by the state of TX to counsel anyone is disturbing, given your obvious psychological issues. Your hocus-pocus religion and belief in a magical invisible man who claims to love people yet advocates torturing, killing and enslaving those who disagree with his disgusting dogma should (in a more rational world) disqualify you from ever offering guidance to anyone in distress.

            Religion is a pox upon humanity. It is divisive, promotes hatred and discord and is the source of most of the strife, conflict and bigotry around the world. Your words and attitude prove that point quite clearly.

            It also (thankfully) has no place in government in this country. With that FACT in mind, what possible reason exists for the persecution to which this man has been subjected? The fact that he has sex? The fact that he had a consensual exchange with another adult? His personal life has nothing to do with his elected position. Leave it to a hypocritical christian to seek the removal of Coburn from office while giving unequivocal support to the most immoral and reprehensible public official in the history of this nation.

            On one hand, you have a young man who steps up to try and make his city a better place to live. On the other, you have an “anonymous” person who seeks to destroy that man because that is what his religion commands him to do.

            Truly disgusting behavior by a small-minded, regressive, hateful and oppressive religious (i.e., “christains”) community. People like you are why I left SE TX and christianity behind a long time ago.

          • Walt Longmire

            Gee, your hair is on fire, guy. Tell us what you REALLY think.

            But in your tirade you reveal the sad truth: you are an atheist, and you believe that atheism should rule the government. You can’t have it both ways, guy.

            By the way, I am not a resident of Texas. I am a lover of Texas, but not now a resident citizen of Texas. I was for many years. I rejoice in the Lord as to how he had to take me to West Texas to come to know Him as Savior. I fell in love with the place, and return as often as my health allows.

          • StudioTodd

            I don’t believe atheism should rule the government. Also, atheism is not a thing like religion, as you seem to want to infer. It is simply the absence of belief in mythology.

            I believe that religion should not be involved in government in any way, because religion prefers to discriminate against and oppress anyone who doesn’t adhere to it.

            Government has no responsibility (or right) to coddle your childish fantasies. If you want to believe in magical hocus-pocus and fairy tales about people living inside of whales or zombie stories about dead people coming back to life days after they’ve died or homemade boats that were somehow magically able to house 2 of every animal species on the planet, then you have the right to believe it.

            But you don’t have the right to expect the rest of us to support your delusions or to follow your rules. You deny the legitimacy of scientific research and seek to deny rights to people because of what is printed in your little religious book. Who the F do you think you are?

            Your divisive death cult is the chief cause of misery for millions of people. Throughout history, it has been responsible for the oppression and deaths of those who have decided that they prefer to live in the real world and reject a belief system that is simultaneously completely ridiculous and disgustingly hateful.

            Cross Coburn has done nothing to warrant the abuse that he has received from so-called “loving christains.” What he did was legal, caused no harm to anyone and was done with the expectation of privacy. He has my full support.

          • Walt Longmire

            That is not the reason. You simply hate God. I’ve seen it tens of thousands of times.

          • StudioTodd

            No, you’re wrong. I cannot hate something that does not exist. It’s the followers of this childish nonsense that get my back up.

          • Walt Longmire

            No, it is the obligation that God requires of you even if you don’t believe He exists. But in fact you do. Perhaps you didn’t read Romans 1 carefully enough. It talks about you and your ilk.

            “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness [that’s you] and unrighteousness [you agaiin], who SUPPRESS THE TRUTH in unrighteousness… [that is you again!]

            Let me explain the text for you. You know God at some level, though you deny it. The Bible says you are suppressing that knowledge, not that God doesn’t exist. Look what he then says:

            …because what may be known about God is manifest IN THEM [that is you again], for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His [God’s, that is] invisible attributes are CLEARLY SEEN, being understood by the thing that are made… [a tree, for instance, or an eyeball]

            How comprehensive is this knowlege about God that God Himself instills in the human constitutional nature?

            “…even His eternal power AND GODHEAD, so that they are without excuse…” [there you are again!]

            I repeat: You know God even if you deny it. It is in the created constitutional nature of human kind, and you cannot deny it. God put it there long before you could think.

          • StudioTodd

            Your argument presupposes that what is written in your filthy book is fact. It is not. It is an anthology of folk tales, myths, fantasy and utter mendacity–mostly stolen and from religions with christain characters substituted for the original ones. It was assembled by a committee of men, with some parts discarded if went against their agenda. There was no invisible man at a typewriter churning out chapter and verse–it was a bunch of guys who lacked education and scientific putting together a hodge-podge of B.S.

            Any argument you make that relies on fairy tales and superstitions is inconsequential.

            Your god does not exist. He never has. There is no evidence of the existence of a god beyond your insistence that it is true. Your bible is not proof.

          • StudioTodd

            “Homosexuality is not a “creation” of God, but of man’s free will. That
            it will result in eternal death if not repented of is the consequence of
            being a creature of God in rebellion against his Creator. But my God is
            merciful, and gracious, and will not only save but help this poor soul
            put away his sins.”

            Unreal. It is exasperating how you people twist yourselves into pretzels to try and rationalize or justify your own BS.

            You are saying that your god created everything–including people–except for certain things, which he did not create. He either created everything or he did not–which is it?

            If you were somehow able to create a person but you left off their arms and legs and then dropped them into the ocean, you would be responsible for that person’s death. You wouldn’t blame the armless/legless person for not being able to do something that you made it impossible for him to do, would you?

            If your god existed and created everything, then he would indeed be responsible for everything–including the broad spectrum of sexuality. To create people with a particular sexual orientation and then condemn them for it is horrible and evil beyond comprehension.

            And if he has the power to let the “sins” of some people slide because they happened to believe a certain religion, then he would certainly have the power to write off the “sins” of those people who–for whatever reason– cannot follow that religion. Some people require actual proof of something before they accept it as real. Why should they be condemned for using the logic and reasoning that your god supposedly instilled in them?

            Face it–your god is either A) a twisted vindictive psycho who gets off on the suffering of his creation, B) completely uninterested in what we do and so he ignores us completely, C) not as all-powerful and all-knowing as you claim him to be or D) is a figment of your imagination. Why would anyone even want to follow a horrible god like that?

          • Walt Longmire

            You do realize that you have afforded me the opportunity to take up huge bandwidth with a response to your post? You ask the same hackneyed questions and make the same innane charges that I have seen now for about 60 years. It never changes. Man’s depravity remains despite all of “enlightened” society’s educational efforts, and persons created by God are still spitting in His face.

            The missing part? You seem to have the notion that somehow *behaviors* are created things! That is so sophomoric that I cannot but laugh at it. God does not create behaviors in His creatures, but grants them free will so that they can know both good and evil. Sadly, mankind, because of his depraved nature [after the Fall] always chooses evil and rebellion, unless and until God intervenes on their behalf, graning them the ability to finally choose the good.

            Your understanding of God’s provision of Jesus Christ to die for the sins of His people is even more preadolescent, frankly. But first let me tell you this: God’s provision for forgiveness of sins is more than sufficient for all who — get this, now, for God has set conditions – repent and believe the Gospel. Unless and until you repent of your sins, the guilt remains and eternal death and hell is the consequence of that sinful rebellion against God and His Son Jesus Christ, who He sent to die for His people. So there is no want of power or capacity to forgive.

            But God sets His own rules, and sets conditions on the benefits of the atoning death of Jesus Christ, namely repentance and faith. Be sure that if one repents and turns from his sins, and puts his faith in Jesus Christ to save his soul, that person cannot be “unsaved” again — ever.

            But God does not leave His people without help. Indeed, the Holy Spirit in the world is God’s servent to God’s elect, and when one turns from his/her sins and trusts Christ, they receive the Holy Spirit into their souls so that they are empowered to change their behavior and/or their thinking to bring their lives and behaviors into the framework of their dear Savior, Jesus Christ. Indeed, every single believers knows that it has nothing to do with their own personal power or ability, but with the gracious endowment of the Holy Spirit who helps us in our infirmities and helps us to overcome our native depravity and conform our lives to that of Christ-likeness.

            As for any logic and reason instilled in mankind, you miss an important point: that reason and logic is faulty by reason of sinfulness. No part of man’s constitutional nature is untouched by sin. Even his reason and logic is flawed, and that serously.

            Yet man arrogantly thinks himself without flaw, and seeks to be equal with God. That was the original sin and one that characterizes mankind to our very day, and God warned it would.

            I will return with some more later, but will let this suffice for the moment. While I am gone, you could enlighten yourself – to a degree – by reading the first three chapters of the book of Romans in the Bible. Intelligent people like you would only have to devote ten minutes of your time to do so, but I suspect that you will not give it even that. But I encourage you to do so, so that you will at least have a smidgeon of knowledge about the Christiahn faith and God.

          • Walt Longmire

            Just a bit of clarification. God does not “let some people’s sins slide,” as you seem to suggest. He exacts the final penalty for all sins, death. Alll sins will be punished with death, either in person or vicariously, through Christ, who took my sins and my penalty and hung them on a cross. The Devil thought he had won, but he did not anticipate that God had power over death, hell and the grave. He arose, and because He did, I will too, in his presence. My sins have been paid, but by another perfect sinless person, Jesus Christ. You either find that forgiveness of sin in Christ or you die for your own sins personally. Either way, no sin has “slid by.” Death is the penalty for sin. Either you must die for your own, or you must accept the work of Jesus Christ to pay for your sins on the tree. In both ways, sin is fully punished.

          • StudioTodd

            Says who?

          • Walt Longmire

            God Himself. “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!”

          • StudioTodd

            Invalid argument. There is no god.

          • Walt Longmire

            But what if the armless and legness person scorned your pleas for being careful, cut off their own legs, cut off their arms, and addled their minds by disobedience against the warning that such behavior would bring them death?

            See the difference? Man chose by his own will to violate God’s warning. Man is responsible for his sins and the consequences of their sins, just like the man who cut off his limbs in an act of defiance of the ships captain. We would not hold the captain responsible – at least sane people wouldn’t.

            Man sinned willfully after repeated warnings not to do so, and knew full well the consequences of that sin. You are dying exactly because of that original sin. Because you have been born of a fallen creature, your mother, you are unable to choose the good as Adam and Eve initially were. When they sinned, they brought upon themselves and their offspring [all humans] moral depravity, so that they are no longer able to choose what is good in God.

            As a result, your only hope is — just as my own is — that Jesus will have mercy on you, for without that mercy you will perish in hell.

          • StudioTodd

            But what if??? That’s a child’s argument..

            You didn’t answer my question–you made up your own. If you’re going to be disingenuous in your responses, you might as well not bother to reply at all.

          • Common Sense

            James 2:1-4
            My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

          • Walt Longmire

            Actually, a complete non sequitor, Common. You surely cannot believe that the church’s responsibility is to accept moral evil, can you? It is obvious that the text you quote has nothing to do with known immoral behaviors. But it does talk about the poor as opposed to the middle class and/or rich, who have a tendency to judge in such a way.

            I work diligently to invite homosexuals to church. How are we to minister to them if they do not hear? And how will they hear except by a preacher?

            But be sure, we are not to tolerate or support immoral behaviors in people we deal with. We are not to “touch the unclean thing.” We are to preach to it. Only God can change a homosexual’s lusts.

          • Common Sense

            “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Matthew 5:46-48

            So welcoming others is a hallmark of Christianity.

          • Common Sense

            I can do this all day “Walt Longmire”, you hypocritical bigot.

          • Walt Longmire

            🙂 Somehow I knew you could. But your responses get shorter and shorter. Maybe you are coming over to my view? I could only hope,

          • TestSubject51

            Thank you!

        • Common Sense

          Hebrews 12:14
          Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

          • Walt Longmire

            Common, is that being ripped out of context to justify silence, and to justify laziness when it comes to the popogation of the Gospel? Taken in its proper context, I agree wholly with that instruction. But I also know there is a commandment [repeatedly, actually], to “preach the Gospel” to “every creature.” Why do I not think you do that?

            Ask my neighbors if I live in peace with them, when I blow the snow off their drives every time it snows, for mow their lawn if they are sick/under the weather.

            When you use the biblical text as a bludgeon, it comes back to bite you. Be wise instead, and tell someone today of their need to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel, instead of attacking His servants.

          • Common Sense

            Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7

            How many black families do you blow snow for? Mexican families? Asian families? Anyone brown at all? Any gay families? Democrats? How about Jewish people? They are all part of “every creature”. How many creatures of this world do you have relationships with that aren’t old, bigoted, white, hypocrites like yourself?

            And by “preach the Gospel” you only mean to spew your bigotry, hate, and hypocrisy, dragging down good Christians with your perverse interpretations. Preaching the Gospel is supposed to be about spreading the good word, not judging others, not tearing people down who are different from you. You can’t preach TO people, telling them that they are wrong and you are right, basing your arguments on some version of a book that has been written and re-written for centuries by thousands of different people in countries all over the planet. You have to take the message and live a good life around it. You have to apply it to YOUR life and not force it on others based on your judgement of them.

            11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

          • Walt Longmire

            Dude, did you notice that the teaching is for those who are brothers and sisters? You, sir, are not my brother in any fashion, but certainly not in any religious way. God will judge us all, me included. My only claim then will be the blood of Jesus Christ shed for me. How about you?

            But let me introduce you and the others here to the God of the Bible, and not the god of your imagination that you have so poorly defined. The God of the Bible says these things:

            “You who love the Lord, hate evil!”

            “For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with you. The boastful will not stand in Your sight. You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood. The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful person.”

            “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

            THAT is the God I worship, not the puny liberal guru you envision. He is the Creator and judge of the earth, and you will face him one way or another. You can’t avoide THIS God by unbelief.

          • Walt Longmire

            Ephesians 5: 11
            “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather EXPOSE them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

            Speaking of wrongful judgment, before God and Christ you have stepped in it. You know nothing of my help of “brown people.” But I will bet you that it is 100 times more than yours! But it is Christian not to boast of your accolades, as they are really the result of God’s grace and not my own power. But I could line up a whole bunch of “brown people” in this country and in Mexico what would kick your behind for condemning me somehow for not helping Mexicans and other “brown people.” But you will have to either come to Christ as a believer or wait until your death to discover the truth of my actions.

            As for scooping snow for homosexual people, I do not ask for any sexual preferences before tackling the snow on driveways. Indeed, I have [actually had, as they have now moved away] two lesbian lovers for whom I did exactly that, and who would often stop by when they saw me in the yard, to gab with me. But you can be sure that they knew my view on their homosexuality. How did we do that, eh? 🙂

          • Walt Longmire

            Do you really think that James or the Apostle Paul were actually teaching that Christians were to indulge the sinful behavior of members of the church? Do you REALLY believe that? That is how you are “interpreting” this, but you are dead wrong again. The Apostle Paul once told the Corinthian church to deliver a member to Satan for having illegitimate sex with his step-mother!

            Ah, but you are wiser than they, right? You know better than God.

            Bah. This is silly and childish argumentation from you. You know better but cannot contain yourself. We call that hatred.

          • StudioTodd

            The “Apostle Paul” is among the most hateful characters in that filthy pornographic book you love so much. Paul never met an outsider he didn’t want to see ostracized or murdered.

            It’s incredible that you choose to believe in and promote a book so full of death, hate, hypocrisy and misery–a book which contradicts itself throughout. It’s a janky haphazard anthology of grotesque myths that should viewed for what it is– a strange curiosity from an ancient barbaric era.

          • Walt Longmire

            But finally you agree that the teaching is against homosexuality. That is what I and the readers get from your rant.

          • StudioTodd

            His teaching is also misogynistic, xenophobic, pro-slavery, and racist as hell. You can take that as well.

    • St. Anger

      Responsible to whom? “City leaders” acknowledged he did nothing illegal.

      • Walt Longmire

        Responsible to God first, to society and morality secondarily. Legal does not make a thing good or moral. Do you remember Jim Crow laws?

        • St. Anger

          Yes. Do you remember the first amendment?

    • Common Sense

      Check Romans 1:23 and be reminded that the passage is regarding idolatry, THEN the behavior of the people that God gave up on pushed in the direction of sinful desires and shameful lusts. Interestingly, people who disobey their parents are among those “worthy of death” in 1:32, as well as gossips and slanderers, which I’m betting includes you from time to time Victor.

      Also how many “versions” of the Bible are there today? 50? 100? More? Any how many “versions” have there been over the last 2,000 years since the world has been in existence? So stop with the literal translations that only support your views. Even if the Bible as we read it today was actually written by God, the stories in the Bible have evolved. You see that right? So please for the rest of us trying to live a good Christian life, start living the way of the Bible, which is love, forgiveness, acceptance, etc, and not hate. That is a choice and you have to make it.

      That you still think sexual preference is a choice just makes you stupid.

      • Walt Longmire

        There is only one version of Holy Scripture, the original manuscripts written by the biblical authors under the spiritual guidance of God. The measure of every version is how close they are to the original meaning of the original manuscripts, and almost all those who study such things, Christians and non-Christians, agree that more than 99% of the biblical text is reliable, and the less than one percent not yet confirmed has no important doctrinal impact. So, you are simply wrong. But I will be kind and attribute it only to your ignorance of such things.

      • Walt Longmire

        Sexual behavior is completely a free moral choice. Deviant sexual preference for the same sex is perverted and unnatural, just as the Scriptures teach. There is willful behavior in homosexual behavior.

        Have you found that gay gene yet? 🙂 There is a reason why you have not found it, nor will you ever: it is not there. Homosexuality is a chosen behavior. So is heterosexuality. I could be a homosexual IF I WANTED TO. But my ‘want to” is not perverted, so I don’t “want to” be a homosexual. In the case of unrepentant sinners, their “want to” is broken and sinful.

        • StudioTodd

          “Homosexuality is a chosen behavior. So is heterosexuality. I could be a homosexual IF I WANTED TO.

          Eureka–that, in a nutshell, is the source of your bigotry and animus toward gay people.

          Most people could not “be a homosexual if [they] wanted to.” Certainly, no one who is heterosexual could suddenly become attracted to a person of the same sex, no matter what they told themselves they had “chosen.” The same goes for gay people–I cant change who I am attracted to. I tried for a very long time, while I was under the influence of toxic evangelicals–it doesn’t work.

          The fact that you claim to have the ability to make a choice as to which gender attracts you shows that you are, to a degree, bisexual. You are jealous of gay people because they don’t experience the shame and self-loathing that forces you to deny that part of yourself.

          It makes perfect sense now. You don’t want gay people to be free to live their lives openly because you are not able to do the same.

          The truth is, sexual orientation is not a choice, but religion is. You can choose to be religious or not. Having experienced both sides, I can tell you that a life without religion is much more honest and fulfilling.

          • Walt Longmire

            Sorry, but all your “explanation” about sexual orientation is little more than your personal opinion. And for me, your personal opionion simply doesn’t count. I will rather go with science and history. You will proceed on only your own jaundiced opinion, which you admit you cannot change your homosexual BEHAVIOR because you don’t “want to,” just as I said. Your behavior is like bad drugs; it is addictive and you are controlled by it. You are not free at all, but enslaved to your “vile passions,” as the Scriptures call them.

          • StudioTodd

            Reading comprehension is apparently not something that comes easy to you. Either that or you are a straight-up liar.

            I never said a thing about “homosexual BEHAVIOR”–I wrote about attraction. I said that a person cannot change who he is attracted to–be he gay or straight. And I offered, as an example, the fact that I tried very hard to change mine, but it did not work. Not because I didn’t want it to, but because it is not possible to do so.

            A person can suppress his attractions and live a pitiful life of frustration, loneliness and shame, but why should he? To avoid being called “sissy” by the likes of you?? To gain favor with a group of judgmental, joyless, hate-mongering zombie-followers, who will always look down on him and never fully accept him anyway?

            You clearly do not “go with science and history,” because if you did, you would walk away from the divisive death-cult you call a religion (i.e., the opposite of science). And, honestly, for a christain, you do a better job at driving people away from your religion than I ever could. Who in their right mind would want to side with someone as insufferably hypocritical as you?

  • willj

    We have a thrice married President who sleeps with porn stars and grabs women’s genitals on a whim – and these people are getting all stressed out over a 19 year old single boy/man who’s simply being true to his own nature. IT’S NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS! More of the usual high and mighty, holier-than-thou hypocrisy of “sin free” Christians.

    • Walt Longmire

      O contraire, will. This is not his “nature.” It is his chosen behavior, and God condemns it as abomination, unclean, unholy, unnatural, vile affection, and, as Romans 1:32 says, “…deserving of death.”

      If you are going to defend this little sissy dude, you will have to set yourself against God. That never works out well.

      • Evan Clymer

        That reply alone sort of cements the theory that this is religion involving itself in politics. Which, obviously, it should not be.

        Secondly, it is thoroughly dubious and disgusting that folks are calling for this young man’s death, whether or not they hide behind their Holy Books or God to do so.

        Thirdly, while there are clear issues with the facts presented in this article (How was Williamson approached to run to fill Ward 1, when supposedly the city council didn’t know they’d have to recall Coburn via an election until AFTER they already went to their attorney — after Coburn was notified of the images? And if Williamson was later running for a city council position, why were there complaints from the mayor concerning her election signs for the Mayor position?), those inconsistencies still do little to diminish the blatant homophobia and vitriol displayed by the citizens of Groves. As someone who personally has very few limits and prescribes to a “think whatever you want” mentality, this is beyond disgusting behavior.

        But what I think is the most disgusting is we are dealing with a group of people who use their religion as a thoroughly wretched crutch to attempt to ruin the life of a young man trying to get involved in politics (which is fairly rare, as it is). Then, while using this crutch, they blatantly deny that religion is the driving force. if not, what is the reason for this witch hunt, then? Are we alleging that everyone else (or just council members) are perfect beacons of humanity and decency? Judging from the behavior of some of the other politically involved members of Groves, that’s clearly not the case.

        It’s homophobia, and the folks pushing it are doing it as cowards would do.

        • Walt Longmire

          Homophobia is a made-up word that liberals and other homosexuals invented out of whole cloth. You can be sure I am not afraid of his perversion – or his person, for that matter. This whole issue narrows down to one question: is homosexuality a perversion or not? You take the “not” position, I take the “is” position, and have backed my position with reference to hundreds of thousands of years of condemnation of this sexual perversion, plus the clear and unequivocal condemnation of God in the Holy Scriptures. Your rejection of such evidence is revealing, that you are not someone with reason, but wretched bias for the perversion.

          Yes, there are serious questions about the process that was done in that town, but in the end it is a question of whether or not the people of that town wanted a homosexual leader or not. Seems they were clear in their rejection of this person.

          Your total lack of morality – or even a sense of morality – is why our country is in the pickle it is, with rampant homosexuality, killing of innocent fetuses, and just about every vice and immoral behavior loved by the Democrat liberals. You would do well in San Francisco. I might be willing to pay your travel fare out of Texas.

          • WestTexan70

            You need to change your “name” — you’re about as far away from Walt Longmire as any one person can be. For that matter, you’re as far away from Jesus as any one person can be. I’m a sixty-year-old native West Texas white guy who’s been faithfully married to the same woman for thirty-five years and I know your kind. I grew up in an evangelical church and you folks are unfortunately a dime a dozen. You follow hateful, divisive, immortal cowards like your Orange daddy-figure and your evil preachers who can’t stand that other people might think differently. If there is a heaven, I think you’re gonna be real surprised to find out you ain’t gonna be there. Of course, I don’t call those shots and neither do you. Perhaps you should become humble enough to understand that.

          • Walt Longmire

            First, I am not a fan of Trump. I am wondering what made you say that. Prejudice, perhaps? Presumption, perhaps? Try to avoid that in the future.

            By the way, if there is a heaven [and there is!] I will only be there if my Savior Jesus Christ is there. Wherever He is, I will be, on His promise.

            Do you really accept homosexuality as moral conduct? On what system of morals do you operate?

          • Common Sense

            Romans 12:15-18
            Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

          • Walt Longmire

            You remind me of those of which the Apostle wrote, saying they have “a form of godliness, but lack the power thereof.” If you grew up in an evangelical church [which I doubt] you missed the whole point. That is profoundly sad that you lived under the preaching of the Word but came away unbelieving. You sound a bit like those the Apostle describes in Romans 1:

            “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who SUPPRESS THE TRUTH in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is MANIFEST IN THEM, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world, His invistible attributes are CLEARLY SEEN, being understood by the things that are created, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are WITHOUT EXCUSE, because although they KNEW GOD, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became FUTILE IN THEIR THOUGHTS and their FOOLISH HEARTS WERE DARKENED. Professing to be wise, they became fools.”

            Bingo, eh?

          • Walt Longmire

            By the way, Walt Longmire has nothing to do with Texas. 🙂

          • Common Sense

            John 13:34
            A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

          • Walt Longmire

            The text is talking about Christian brothers. We have our lost neighbors, too, and them we are to love by warning them of the eternal consequences of unbelief.

          • Common Sense

            I have plenty of friends who are my Christian brothers, and sisters too, who believe, and who are gay. I love them the way that Christ tells us to.

          • Walt Longmire

            Well, in the teaching of Holy Scripture thay are NOT followers of Christ. They may call themselves Christian, but as the old saying goes, even if I am standing in a garage, that does not make me a car.

            Put blundly, unless and until they repent of their sins, which includes tuning from them completely, they are NOT Christians, have not been born again, and stand in danger of eternal damnation. So says Romans 1:32 — and that same condemnation applies to those “who approve of” such behaviors.

            Do your friends a favor and warn them of the judgment to come.

          • Evan Clymer

            The issue here, is that you will refute any argument which deviates from your own beliefs as being inherently wrong, perverse, aberrant, and immoral. Only because a Holy Book tells you to think this.

            “Homophobia is a made-up word that liberals and other homosexuals invented out of whole cloth.”

            I don’t really know how to react to this… are you saying that homophobia doesn’t exist? Then, are you saying that racism doesn’t also exist? They’re both aversions to things people don’t like because they’re different.

            And you’re saying that because we’ve had thousands of years of discrimination against homosexuals that this makes it OK? So, is anti-Semitism also OK?

            And lastly, are you then saying that the Bible telling you these things is justification in of itself (in addition to thousands of years of bigotry)? If so, I reject that as reasonable evidence to justify your stance. Any group/religion/whatever, which seeks to dictate how a person should live (while they are not negatively impacting anyone else), should be thoroughly opposed.

            The problem here, is you’re using the bible as your citation for any moral, or rational argument you can create. Which might work in an environment or forum where other people subscribe to that logic, but it doesn’t work in a forum where you’re dealing with people who are atheist, agnostic, or even just not your ‘type’ of Christianity.

            I don’t care which book you can quote from the bible. I want you to tell me how someone being a homosexual impacts you in a negative way, or is actively (or shoot, even passively) hurting you. Do that, with no bible verses. How does someone being a homosexual hurt you?

            And like I believe I said — a community is totally free to vote as they wish, but if the roots are in bigotry, it’s fair to say they are also bigoted people.

          • Walt Longmire

            You are quick to the bigotry slur, are you not? Well, what if on every comment I called you an immoral slug? I would be telling the truth, if I am to believe your own words.

            Homosexuality is a rot on any society, dragging it down into perversion and filthiness. It is immoral behavior and has a similar, if more potent, degrading effect as other immoral behaviors do. Do not even try to argue that homosexuality doesn’t affect anyone. It affects everyone.

      • StudioTodd

        “If you are going to defend this little sissy dude…”

        And they’ll know we are christains by our love, by our love…

        • Walt Longmire

          You’re right. That was probably not called for. My apologies. But I still would call that mild in comparison to the comment immediately above yours towards me. I doubt we get any apology from him, though.

          • StudioTodd

            What are you apologizing for? You clearly still feel that way about this individual. Are you apologizing for actual saying it? Because that’s actually not the most grievous part…

            You’re a (supposedly) straight white male who feels superior to those that are different from you and who feels emboldened to denigrate and malign those people because you believe there will be no consequences for it (nor should there be, in your view, because Jesus something something)…that’s what you should apologize for.

          • Walt Longmire

            See, Studio? Now you know why people don’t apologize, for they know that you will not care for it one way or another. But I did apologize, simply because it was perhaps too strong a phrase for the sin of homosexuality. I should have used the biblical word “effiminate,” or something along that line. Sissy is too slangy.

            In any case, homosexuality and all its sexually immoral cousins celebrated by the liberals today are filthy, vile, unclean, unnatural sexually immoral acts that unless repented of and left, will result in eternal death, just as 1:32 says.

          • StudioTodd

            It’s not that I don’t care for it one way or the other. It’s that your apology is insincere. The words you used aren’t what is offensive–it’s your ignorant and narrow-minded opinion that’s the problem.

          • Michael Wen Gonzalez (Mikey)

            Thank you for the apology. It’s very honorable to admit an error in judgment. So few people make such an admission these days and instead just keep repeating the same behavior usually making the situation worse. So again, thank you. While we clearly have different opinions, we should always be respectful and civil to one another. I am a humanist and I don’t believe in God, but respect that you and others are believers. Aside from the bible itself, there is no evidence of God’s existence. In fact, there is more evidence for the existence of homophobia than there is of god. The bible is a series of stories and history put together by man. Although I do not believe in God, I have read and studied the bible for 9 years while attending Catholic school and despite my lack of belief, I try very hard to be more like Jesus every day of my life. I ask myself regularly, “How would Jesus approach this.” What I recall from my studies is that Jesus never mentioned anything about homosexuality. You would think that if homosexuality was such a big sin, he would have mentioned it. Jesus was very vocal about temples being used for trading, about the mistreatment and negative attitude people had toward others such as prostitutes. But not once does he condemn homosexuality. Therefore, I feel confident that Jesus would scold people for their homophobia as he often scolded his disciples for the negative comments they made of others. The fact is, homosexuality does exist right along with homophobia (a word made up by humans to describe and identify the negative attitude, fear and hatred some individuals have toward homosexuals). I should point out that you are living proof that homophobia does exist. It just so happens that your homophobia is derived from your belief, your understanding and your interpretation of the bible. So, please do not tell me that homophobia does not exist. I will agree to respect you and your belief in God (although I do not believe) and I ask that you respect those of us that believe homophobia exists ( although you do not believe).

      • Common Sense

        Romans 1 is about idolatry not sissy dudes you hypocritical bigot.

        1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

        Then 1:24-26 goes into how God gave up on them and moved them towards sinful desires and shameful lusts.

        And as we go all the way through to 1:32, your “deserving of death” verse, we see all kinds of people who deserve to die, including those who are boastful, arrogant, greedy, deceitful, gossips, slanderers, and those who disobey their parents.

        You are also mentioned in here Will Longmire. You were covered back in 1:18

        18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness…

        You are a wicked man Walt, but there is still time for you to repent. If you don’t please send me a selfie of you when figure out that you’re in line to go burn in hell.

        • Walt Longmire

          And you are a false witness for Christ. I don’t rightly care about your opinion about me – though it is one of the most biased and prejudiced opinion I have ever encountered, frankly. What makes it grevious is that you are using the Scriptures in an attempt to sully me, and that, dude, is deadly sin. You should rather be supporting me in condemning the awful sin of homosexuality, which the text deals with more than any other sin in the dark list that the Apostle cites. Let me quote it so the readers will know that you are hiding behind your ignorance of the Scriptures.

          You said that the text 1:24 -26 goes into how God “gave them over,” “gave them up,” gave them up to uncleanness,” repeated three times. But you failed to mention 27-28, which specifically cites male homosexuality, while verse 26 deals specifically with lesbianism. But let me quote 27-28 so that the readers will see how you “edit” your favorite perversion out.

          “Likewise [like the women, that is, in the previous verse] also the men, leaving the NATURAL use of the woman, burned in lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of the error that was due.”

          “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a DEBASED MIND, to do those things which are not fitting;”

          Homosexuality is a particularly corrupting sinful behavior, as the Apostle teaches elsewhere:

          “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites [the two Greek words are for the “giver” and the “taker” in the homosexual coupling] nor theives, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”

          Again, the Bible puts the sins of particular uncleanness first, sexual sins being second only to homosexuality. In the self-same passage, the Apostle teaches this:

          “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a person does is outside the body, but the one who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Do you not know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? You were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your Spirit, which are God’s.”

          As I said, homosexuality as well as fornication and adultery are particularly corrupting sins, and are not to be named among us.

          • Common Sense

            Check Romans 1:23 and be reminded that the passage is regarding idolatry, THEN the behavior of the people that God gave up on pushed in the direction of sinful desires and shameful lusts. Interestingly, people who disobey their parents are among those “worthy of death” in 1:32, as well as gossips and slanderers, which I’m betting includes you from time to time Walt.

            Also how many “versions” of the Bible are there today? 50? 100? More? Any how many “versions” have there been over the last 2,000 years since the world has been in existence? The word homosexual wasn’t even coined until the 1800s so there’s no way it should even be in the Bible. So stop with the literal translations that only support your views. Even if the Bible as we read it today was actually written by God, the stories in the Bible have evolved. You see that right? So please for the rest of us trying to live a good Christian life, start living the way of the Bible, which is love, forgiveness, acceptance, etc, and not hate. That is a choice and you have to make it.

            That you still think sexual preference is a choice just makes you stupid. Every time you open your mouth you sully yourself.

  • Katy del Moxie

    ” who he said was made susceptible to blackmail because of the leaked nude photos”
    I would think this would make him less susceptible since everyone has seen the photos. What would anyone threaten him with? He has obviously seen this as bullying and stood up to it and everyone who is trying to bully him into stepping down.

  • TexasJoe1949

    Great writing. Not being Christian, I’m always very puzzled when people who describe themselves as “good” Christians are extremely prejudiced, un-loving and outright nasty to others. How they justify their behavior and nasty mouths under the guise of Christianity is beyond me. And for a minister to a party to this situation is disgusting. I’ve come to realize that humans distort their “religious” beliefs to justify their emotions regardless of how contradictory.

  • whiteoak001

    I was raised in Groves and just moved back after 39 years in Houston. It’s very sad to see this happening. I don’t know who hacked into this young man’s account but it’s certainly suspicious, and it seems there should be a chargeable offense here somewhere. I’m sure Jill is researching. Gay is not a communicable disease and this young man was looking to be of service to this town. Its sounds very much like there are some bullies on the council. They need to take a good look at what happened to the Former Katy ISD Superintendent. Having morals is a 2 way street. And speaking of which, reline these streets. The reflective paint on 39th street has all but disappeared.

  • Kevin Fisher

    Powerful story against progress. It is shameful that individuals are so against young leaders as they emerge.

  • NDN78

    Very nice article, as a citizen of Groves I have mixed feelings on the entire situation.
    I voted (early voting) to Not recall Coburn because I do not agree with the envelope of photos showing up at city hall and the news. His private life should be kept private, Coburn showed bad character for a civic leader in taking these photos, maybe he has learned a lesson.
    The article is very slanted in favor of Coburn, the story does not go into detail as to Coburns relationship with Karen Theis and how they schemed his election onto the city council with Coburn entering the race late and Jim dropping out of the race on the last day to file for a seat! A very well planned council seat on Karens part to keep someone voting with her.
    The article is written to find sympathy for Coburn and to make the Groves City Officials appear to be mean homophobic right wing Christian racist, which is far from the truth! Good people trying to keep our little city a good place to live and raise families.

    • perks

      i knew there had to be more to this story. Thank you for elaborating. Coburn made some bad choices here, and I dont blame anyone for questioning his judgement. All i can come up with is… Politics are are a rough, shady, dirty game these days, and i doubt it will get any better. I wish we could press the reset button.

  • Evan Clymer

    This is religion involving itself in politics. Which, obviously, it should not be.

    Secondly, it is thoroughly dubious and disgusting that folks are calling for this young man’s death, whether or not they hide behind their Holy Books or God to do so.

    Thirdly, while there are clear issues with the facts presented in this article (How was Williamson approached to run to fill Ward 1, when supposedly the city council didn’t know they’d have to recall Coburn via an election until AFTER they already went to their attorney — after Coburn was notified of the images? And if Williamson was later running for a city council position, why were there complaints from the mayor concerning her election signs for the Mayor position?), those inconsistencies still do little to diminish the blatant homophobia and vitriol displayed by the citizens of Groves. As someone who personally has very few limits and prescribes to a “think whatever you want” mentality, this is beyond disgusting behavior.

    But what I think is the most disgusting is we are dealing with a group of people who use their religion as a thoroughly wretched crutch to attempt to ruin the life of a young man trying to get involved in politics (which is fairly rare, as it is). Then, while using this crutch, they blatantly deny that religion is the driving force. if not, what is the reason for this witch hunt, then? Are we alleging that everyone else (or just council members) are perfect beacons of humanity and decency? Judging from the behavior of some of the other politically involved members of Groves, that’s clearly not the case.

    It’s homophobia, and the folks pushing it are doing it as cowards would do.

    (I made a reply with this same statement on another comment, but felt I took it far enough I may as well comment it directly! Sorry if you’re reading the edited version a second time :P)

    • Evan Clymer

      After reading some comments from citizens of Groves, it seems that Coburn and Theiss utilized some questionable techniques to get him his seat (Which, I figured there had to be more to this than blatant homophobia). So, that certainly makes more sense why there is a surge to oust him.

      But shoot. If that’s the case. Investigate that, recall and boot him. Don’t have it be over a Grindr account where he did nothing illegal.

      • Walt Longmire

        Not illegal in terms of Supreme Court rulings [and not law]. There is no extant law that declares homosexuality to be just okay. You have a SCOTUS ruling that will soon be overturned, bringing sanity back to the US.

        Even your “homophobia” is a made-up, silly adolescent word. You probably invented the term transgender, eh? Again, there is no transgender. There are homosexuals, and they are perverse and should not be approved by moral society any longer.

        • Evan Clymer

          Are you saying the SCOTUS is going to outlaw homosexuality…?
          Concerning transgender — I don’t think any of the commenters know enough about human physiology or psychology to really offer an insight on the roots or reasonableness of transgenderism. I think some folks see themselves as the opposing gender, and I’m fine with that if its what they wish to think.

          I’m just feeling a lot of hatred towards homosexuals from you, Walt, and you can say it’s not hatred, but just a valid reaction to the perverse, or whatever explanation you would offer, but it’s still a pretty blatant intolerance. I’m not exaggerating, but it gives me serious vibes of how it must feel to debate with a Nazi concerning how to regard Jewish people. Like, is there any reasoning with this? What if the situation were reversed and it was Christians being treated like this? And I’m aware to many folks, Christians do feel like they are unfairly prosecuted. I’m only asking if the “shoe was on the other foot” how this would make you feel?

          • Walt Longmire

            And I am feeling a strong hatred from you against Christians. You can say it is not hatred, but it is [see what I did there?].

            I guess I am a little surprised that you, seemingly of normal intelligence, would commit such a faux pax as the all-to-common category error of logic. Put simply, to compare Jews with homosexuals is to confuse categories. It is a fatal error in this instance, where you seem to be unable to sort out the issue here.

            Homosexuality is a behavior; being Jewish [not the religion, but the race] is a natural attribute and no behavior at all. Were the homosexuals not to act on their perversion, no one would know, right? It is only when they engage in homosexual BEHAVIOR, whether verbally by boasting of their perversion, or in engaging in homosexual sex, which they cannot seem to control at all, that we can make the distinctions. The Nazis hated the Jews because they were Jewish, not because they did this or that. They were actually a boon to the German economy and society. Hitler and his henchmen hated them merely for an accident of nature by which they were Jewish.

            But with homosexuals, it is about behavior, and not any natural trait. I hate unrighteousness, just as my God commanded me.

            Psalm 97:10 “You who love the Lord, hate evil!”

            Ephesians 5: 11 “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.”

          • Walt Longmire

            I do certainly believe that sanity will prevail on the new Court, and that Obergefell vs Hodges will be overturned. It was a most stupid politically biased ruling that will be seen to be the irrational ruling it was.

            What we have here is a Court ruling, nothing more. Though many have scrambled to assert that it is law, they are mistaken. There has been no legislation to declare it legal, and as you all know, the Supreme Court does not make laws. All we have here is the bare decree of a biased and perverse Court.

            That has now changed, and you can be sure that over the next 25 years a number of idiotic rulings will be overturned, including Roe v Wade, a murderous and Nazi-like ruling that is insane. It will be seen as such, and there will be changes to both rulings.

            You want to know why many of these issues are only matters taken up in the courts and not in the Congress, the lawmaking arm of our democracy? Let Nancy Pelosi teach you in her own words:

            “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday that the Democrats’ goal to make homosexual marriage the law of the land could not be accomplished “legislatively,” but was achieved through “the courts.”

            “Another piece of our agenda was to promote marriage equality in our country,” Pelosi said in explaining her party’s “four point” plan to advance the homosexual lifestyle.

            “Legislatively, we couldn’t really succeed, but from the courts and the rest, and public opinion, of course, in the actual courts and in the court of public opinion, that victory has been won,” Pelosi said, referring to the Supreme Court decision in June that said state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.”

            There it is in clear language. Pelosi knew that she could not pass her perverse agenda in the Congress, so they decided to use the court system, where the only person to sway was usually a Democrat appointed judge or justice. But those days are about over, and sanity will return to America, as we “Make America great again!”

            [That last sentence was intentionally meant to goad a bit. 🙂

    • Walt Longmire

      Already answered your jaundiced claims above. I too say that the process in the matter in that little town was faulty and weird. But it is clear that the people did not want a queer as a leader. Why are you not Democratic? Do you think homosexuals ought to be entitled? Why?

      Also, answer for me why my religion ought not be a part of my politics. And please don’t make some sophomoric comment about “separation of church and state,” which is about the establishment of a state church. We are not talking about that at all, but about the democratic process in a small town, flawed as it may be. Do you think all who participate in politics ought to be atheists or agnostics? Why?

      • Evan Clymer

        Fair enough. I rescind my comment about religion having no place in politics — there is certainly precedence for religion making a political figure more desirable.

        At the end of the day, people can vote as they wish, but I do believe that folk are also entitled or allowed to have a response or opinion depending upon the reasons for how those votes are cast. If you vote because you don’t like that someone is a homosexual, or just “different” than you, that (to me) makes you a bigoted person. Or at the very least, ignorant.

  • Donna Verret

    Shame on you, Groves, Texas! As someone who grew up in Groves, I am disappointed and saddened that you have not moved forward since 1975 when I left there. . . . Grow UP, let people be what they want to be, get over the hypocritical false “mores.” Maybe then you will be able to keep more of your children there. What a sad situation you are creating for your children.

  • Common Sense

    Galatians 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    • Walt Longmire

      …a text I quote often when I am discussing persons with different genetic traits who come to faith in Christ. IN CHRIST there is no difference. But homosexuals stand outside Christ, by defintion and Biblical assertion. The text says nothing about perverted sexual behavior.

      And the text does NOT mean that the Apostle Paul and/or God accepts Judaism as the “one people” he is talking about. He says that all WHO TURN TO CHRIST AND ARE IN CHRIST equal before God, and should be in our own human relations. It does NOT mean that I do not make distinctions between evil and good men or evil and good behaviors.

      So, you citatation is yet another non sequitor, not to the point we are discussing.

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